Shores of Night by George Condon


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Post April 18, 2005, 11:43:32 AM

Shores of Night by George Condon

<br>once again George spins a good set up, with the reality and ambient details of the story holding up nicely. little bits like the robotic guard, spaceport and the shuttle landing went a long way towards cementing the story's feel and environment. i even expected the cops to be non-human.<br>there was some info dumping, in particular the phone conversation between Vorster and Bob, and we definitely could have done a lot better with a subtle figuring out of the various elements ourselves.<br>and why was it that the Vorster drive couldn't work over interplanetary distances? not important as a story device, just curious.<br><br>anyway, congrats to George for another intriguing tale: this one had a borderline-cyberpunk feel to it, something we don't get enough of here in Aphelion.<br>and an excellent title by the way, sounds like yet another appropriate quote of everyone's favorite scientist, Carl Sagan.<br><br>Lee

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Post April 21, 2005, 12:06:11 PM

Re: Shores of Night by George Condon

Liked the premise, liked the tension between main characters. Straight ahead story with no frills, easy to read.<br><br>But I was troubled by the infodump also noted by Lee. <br><br>Maybe some spoilage coming:<br><br>What's revealed in the phone call is too convenient, too neat, bordering on contrived. I didn't think the connection was unnecessary to flesh out the doc's motivation and, ultimately, it devalues his character, for we see that his noble gesture is rooted quite substantially in guilt (also Skip's actions are driven by a personal injustice suffered, which is also a bit troubling). <br><br>However, I would've liked to have seen the main character acting in the name of a broader good, without self-interest playing a role. A doctor standing by the oath he took confronting the capitalist imperative, that kind of thing. I mean that is communicated to an extent, but not so clearly in light of the phone call. Then again this may have been George's intention, that the line between good and bad is just not that distinct. <br><br>Dan E.<br><br><br><br>
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Post April 21, 2005, 11:21:05 PM

Re: Shores of Night by George Condon

I like to see for myself rather than be told. <br><br>Infodumps are one of those awful things that, sometimes, it seems impossible to get away from. Every author falls prey to their seductive wiles from time to time. They beckon to you, to have a character just say it so you can get on to a fun bit. C'mon, you know you want to.<br><br>But it is to show rather than tell, and the story is better in the end for it. After they made out to escape the cops would have been a great place to show the sexual tension between them. If her face flushed with embarrassment and perhaps a hint of sorrow, and his conversation stammered whenever he looked at her, we would have gotten most of the gist right there. If when he walked in the nurse would have been in tears because she didn't have a drug to keep her patient from suffering and Bob pulled it from his bag right then, we would know why he stole the drugs, and it would be more touching. We didn't need to know in advance Skip was married to the patient--maybe have him relapse to the day before their wedding and she has to play along through her tears.<br><br>Ideally, you want to get the audience behind your hero right off. To that end, generally you want him, or her, or it, to be likeable and engaging (or dislikeable but still engaging). Starting the story with a man stealing drugs may not be the best choice to achieve that aim. A little bit later, we learn he's a doctor, which just seems all wrong. He explains that he just can't get what he needs, but all I could think at that point was that journalists love doing news stories about that kind of suffering. The fall from the stardom of spaceship pilot is bound to be good for ratings. Governments give money after that kind of press. Eventually, we learn that Bob's a pretty good guy who endearingly loves a woman who will never love him back, but it's pretty late in the game at that point.<br><br>Structurally, I might have been better to start with the phone conversation, and discover it's meaning throughout the tale. The mystery of it could draw us in. <br><br>Setting detail was rather sparse. There were a lot of robotic devices, self-drive for the car and android guards, but no indication what one looked like. I wanted to know how the experience of travel with a Vorster felt, to maybe see why it would have such a consequence. Was the drive three blocks long or as small as a walnut? What did the shuttle look like? As always, it's best to employ all the senses.<br><br>Like Dan E., I didn't buy the phone call at the end. It was too trite, too easy. It seemed like a shortcut to end the story, instead of building the plot up to a conclusion. Slogging it out to the end isn't easy, but without any rising action to be released at the eventual climax, there just isn't much impact to the story. As a reader, I wanted more story, more drama... more impact. At that point, I was in to the character and the storyline and wanted to go somewhere along with Bob, to share in his human experience. But instead, it just ended.<br><br>A note on dialogue--there aren't that many characters, so it's not hard to tell them apart, but I didn't buy the patient's words. I'm no expert on this, but he didn't "sound" out of his head. Sure he thinks Bob is an alien, but something about the way he spoke, something nebulous I can't quite put my finger on, didn't sound nuts to me.<br><br>Nate
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Post April 25, 2005, 01:10:47 PM

Shores of Night by George Condon

<br>what do lunatics sound like? To me he was quite a believable victim, and remember his is a new, mysterious affliction unlike the other mental "difficulties" we often deal with.<br><br>Lee

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Post April 25, 2005, 05:10:15 PM

Re: Shores of Night by George Condon

I know Nate has been picked on a bit this issue, but I want to disagree with him on one point in his critique:<br><br>I don't think you need to have a likeable character right off the bat (or at all). I think you need to create a compelling character, eg, Dracula, Patrick Bateman of American Psycho. <br><br>I think starting off ambiguously adds some tension to the story and, once you've drawn the readers in, you apply the coup de grace when you reveal that in fact this compelling character is also likeable or someone readers can relate to. With respect to George's piece, I think it's OK to start with someone stealing drugs. You sort of figure you're supposed to care about this guy, but why? Who is he? And who's the woman? That's a compelling start, and then it's up to the writer to maintain that and develop a lead character that readers will want to care about for the duration.<br><br>Dan E.
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Post April 25, 2005, 08:16:12 PM

Re: Shores of Night by George Condon

I know Nate has been picked on a bit this issue, but I want to disagree with him on one point in his critique:
<br><br>Well, I certainly never expected to spend what little free time I had this month defending myself. :-/<br><br>
I don't think you need to have a likeable character right off the bat (or at all). I think you need to create a compelling character, eg, Dracula, Patrick Bateman of American Psycho.
<br><br>Hmm... How would that be different from when I said<br>
To that end, generally you want him, or her, or it, to be likeable and engaging (or dislikeable but still engaging)
??<br><br>Unless there's a subtle difference I'm missing, it looks to me like you're taking me to task by agreeing with me. :)<br><br>The main character here is no Artful Dodger of Oliver Twist fame. I didn't find him compelling, at least to start.<br><br>Nate
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Post April 25, 2005, 08:21:40 PM

Re:  Shores of Night by George Condon

what do lunatics sound like? To me he was quite a believable victim, and remember his is a new, mysterious affliction unlike the other mental "difficulties" we often deal with.
<br><br>I said there was something nebulous about it, something I couldn't put my finger on.<br><br>What does a lunatic sound like? I think that's a hard thing to define, but easy to recognize.<br><br>If I said, "Dubya's the best President we ever had! We should put him on Mt. Rushmore!" <br><br>I'm pretty sure it would be easy to spot the lunacy. :)<br><br>Nate
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Post April 25, 2005, 09:26:53 PM

Re: Shores of Night by George Condon

I stand corrected (missed that as I read your critique on the sly at work). There's no difference re: generally you want him, or her, or it, to be likeable and engaging (or dislikeable but still engaging) and what I babbled about. <br><br>Dan E.
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Post April 27, 2005, 05:17:35 PM

Re: Shores of Night by George Condon

I think a bit of foreshadowing might have made the ending more palatable. Guilt is a great motivational tool for character building. However, we really don't get that sense of angst here until the end, and by that point, as others have pointed out, it seems a bit contrived by its introduction.<br><br>I enjoyed the story overall. The pacing seemed fine and I didn't notice any spelling or grammatical issues. There is definitely too much explaining going on. Sometimes less is more, and the one example given by Nate is where I disagree with him:<br><br>
He explains that he just can't get what he needs, but all I could think at that point was that journalists love doing news stories about that kind of suffering. The fall from the stardom of spaceship pilot is bound to be good for ratings. Governments give money after that kind of press.
<br>The very fact that Greg needed to scrounge for medical supplies implies a dark, corporate future where money and greed overcomes compassion. It's never stated outright, but I think that's what gives it the "cyberpunk" feel that Lee noted originally.<br>
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Post April 27, 2005, 06:33:06 PM

Re: Shores of Night by George Condon

...The very fact that Greg needed to scrounge for medical supplies implies a dark, corporate future where money and greed overcomes compassion. It's never stated outright, but I think that's what gives it the "cyberpunk" feel that Lee noted originally.
<br>Well, that and the continued push to explore and exploit space, when it's driving people insane and / or saddling them with major illnesses. (Apparently the spacers have a really stingy HMO ...)<br><br>Robert M.
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Post April 29, 2005, 08:06:03 PM

Re: Shores of Night by George Condon

The very fact that Greg needed to scrounge for medical supplies implies a dark, corporate future where money and greed overcomes compassion. It's never stated outright, but I think that's what gives it the "cyberpunk" feel that Lee noted originally.
<br>Ok, maybe. But why does it have to be cyberpunk to be short on medicine? A current-day VA hospital in some parts of this country could have the same kind of shortage. (Unfortunately, that's a dark, corporate future of a different sort.)<br><br>It does have a lot of the elements of cyberpunk, sure. But as I recall, the hero had the idea for the drive in college, which I presumed to be not all that far in the past. 20 years at most. I doubt that the whole world could have turned over that far in 20 years.<br><br>Of course, it could have been pretty far gone to begin with, but I think the rule of thumb is that everything in SF is assumed to be the same as our current world until we're informed otherwise. <br><br>I wasn't informed otherwise, at least, not definitively so.<br><br>Nate
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